Why she stands out: Bell became one to watch when she won the free skate at October’s Skate America, her only grand prix of the season, taking silver at the event after placing sixth in the short program. She once again proved the strength of her free skate at the 2017 U.S. championships, moving up from sixth to earn bronze.
On competing under pressure at nationals: “Obviously there was a little more talk after Skate America, and that was kind of a buzz here and something that I’ve never had in my career yet. Just being able to come in and skate performances that I’m really proud of under more pressure than I’ve felt is something I’m really, really proud of.”
The 20-year old Ralston Valley High School graduate finished third at the U.S. Championships on Saturday to vault herself into the spotlight a year out from the Winter Olympics. She’ll learn a lot more about herself in the next few weeks with two huge international competitions in front of her. Next month she will compete in the prestigious Four Continents Championships at the venue in PyeongChang, South Korea, that will be the host site at the Olympics next year. Her performance at the U.S. championships also qualified her for the world championships, March 29-April 2 in Helsinki.
“I’m very, very excited,” said Bell, who was sixth after the short program at the nationals and posted a strong free skate to secure the bronze medal. “The way that I skated wasn’t the shocking feeling. It was more when I was actually standing on the podium, because that’s something I’ve wanted all year. I knew I was capable of it, but you have to go out and skate two great performances.”
Bell first marked herself as a rising talent in October when she claimed a silver medal at Skate America. That was a breakthrough, but it also brought added pressure when she got to the U.S. championships last week in Kansas City, Mo.
“We were extremely proud of her performances and the fact that she was able to overcome the nerves,” said her mother. “She went into nationals kind of with a name, which was the first time at the senior level that she had done that. She had interviews, she had people wanting to talk to her, and that was all new. She wasn’t used to that attention, and I thought she did a very nice job managing it all.”
“I loved Ralston Valley,” said Bell, who graduated in 2014. “I love to have something that takes me away from skating. I loved the kids there. I loved the teachers. I would go to basketball games and football games and the dances. I had such a great four years there. It was awesome.”
After graduation, she moved to Monument so she could be coached by Kori Ade. Last summer, she changed coaches again, joining Rafael Arutyunyan, who also coaches Nathan Chen and Ashley Wagner. Chen won the men’s gold medal at the U.S. championships and Wagner took silver.
Bell began thinking she had a chance to make the 2018 Olympic team after her performance at Skate America.
“Making this world team is a really good step for my ultimate goal of making the Olympic team,” she said. “(The Olympics) is in the back of my mind, but it’s not something I’m really thinking about because I have so many things on my plate coming within the next two months (Four Continents and world championships).”
Her mother concedes the idea of the Olympics is “very exciting” but “nerve-racking,” too.
“There’s so many factors that go into it,” Kendra said. “You have to keep them healthy. You have to keep them at the point where they can still go out and perform. There’s a lot of very talented U.S. ladies right now. She has to continue to perform.”